By the Grace of the Gods Review
Season aired: Fall 2020
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Fantasy, Slice-of-life
Thoughts: After an endless slew of isekai anime, of which only a few had proven themselves to be original and well-written, By the Grace of the Gods attempt its take on the isekai genre. It follows Ryoma, a Japanese man who had spent his entire life struggling. His father abused him as a child, and his company overworks him with no reprieve in sight. After dying from a sneeze, three gods from another world sympathized with his plight and decided to reincarnate him to their world as a carefree child surrounded by nature and slimes.
The first episode premiered during the virtual Funimation convention over the summer, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of the anime. It signaled a story of healing as many of the problems that Ryoma suffered through in Japan are actual critiques on society: work culture and lack of emotional support for people who suffered trauma and loss. In this new world, Ryoma spends his days leisurely doing what he likes and finds support with a kind family who wants nothing but to help him flourish to his full potential.
However, as the series went on, the story begins to drag. I do not think the anime went far enough to emphasize how powerful support and love can improve someone’s life. The emotional moments where he realized how his life had changed for the better always hits the hardest and gets the biggest reactions from me. There is a particular scene where Ryoma reflected on the effect of his mother’s death — coming home to an empty apartment after a thankless day of work left nothing but emptiness inside him. However, when he stepped through the doors in the new world, he found himself greeted by the loving members of the Reinhard family and ended up crying from the forgotten warmth. Those were the moments that felt magical to me, and unfortunately, the anime chose to limit those moments.
Instead, most of the series focused on Ryoma’s otherworldly knowledge that made him appear as a prodigy in a similar way Myne’s story was already reflected in Ascendance of a Bookworm. However, unlike Myne, Ryoma’s personality dulled in comparison to hers as he is just incessantly nice, polite, and caring with none of the flaws that made Myne a more three-dimensional character. It didn’t matter whether Ryoma embarked as an adventurer or a businessman — at the end of the day, it all felt the same as paragraphs from an instruction manual. The slimes and their personalities brought more life to the screen than whenever Ryoma spoke or interacted with other characters.
The animation was also painstakingly simple, especially in the few fight scenes that Ryoma engaged in with monsters, and the sceneries were a huge letdown. Usually, in anime that have a slower-paced storyline, animation might diminish in quality, but the art does not. However, in this slower-paced anime, none of the two particularly stood out, making it rather forgetful. On a day that aired both By the Grace of the Gods and Moriarty the Patriot, I found myself jumping for the latter and often even forgetting the former aired an episode.
The voice acting also didn’t lend much to the story. Ryoma’s performance honestly felt flat throughout the series, and none of the supporting characters stood out particularly as well in performances. While the soundtrack accompanied perfectly fine, it wasn’t enough to make me yawn at many points while watching the episodes. To reiterate my prior point — I had more fun watching the slimes than I did with any of the human characters, and the slimes don’t even speak a single line.
I have respect for what the anime tried to do. Rather than a grand adventure isekai where the protagonist reincarnates from a nobody to a huge hero of a world, this isekai wanted to focus on consistent love and self-esteem. And the anime did commit to that part. Ryoma grew more popular as the series went on, but he didn’t become an overnight sensation in the new world and even his popularity remained within a niche city. However, because the story still didn’t want to lose some of the aspects that made isekai popular in the first place, its originality disappeared behind the clunky isekai tropes. I would’ve appreciated Ryoma imperfect in the things he did, and I would’ve appreciated more interwoven stories of his hard days living in Japan versus the new life the three gods had graciously granted him.
I’ve heard many praises about the light novels — praises about the emotional core of Ryoma’s journey and the emphasis on supportive relationships for personal growth. However, I certainly did not witness that in the anime, so I would have to assume that the series simply didn’t do the source material justice.
Plot: 6 (Multiplier 3.5)
Characters: 6 (Multiplier 3.5)
Voice acting: 5
FINAL SCORE: 61